A Tudor Christmas Story by Tracy Lawrence

1605, London, Ludgate.

My grandchildren have been asking about my time at the court of the late Queen, what it was like to be a lady in waiting to her, about the events that took place for important visitors and the Christmastide celebrations.
I have a lot of time to think now and my memories of 30, 40, 50 years ago are clearer then what I did yesterday, age you see, I am, after all nearly 80, a great age.

I always enjoyed the Christmastide celebrations but never during my late mistress’ imprisonments, they were always sad affairs, dismal, well there wasn’t the money for one thing, then we were all prisoners, I always
remember the sadness then of my mistress when her thoughts turned to her childhood, sad times indeed but there you are.

Once she became queen, oh you should have seen it, the food, mountains of food, and entertainment the like of which I’d never seen before, being a quite country girl, I found it quite shocking at first but I soon started to enjoy myself I can tell you after the first goblet or three of mead!!

The mummers, jugglers and fools, the dancing and oh the decorations of wreaths and mistletoe , so beautiful and we all made so merry, one year I was the fool of misrule, I managed to get Lord Burghley to sing us some songs (I didn’t think he had it in him to know such bawdy songs!) the Earl of Leicester was always at the Queen’s side during those times, more so after his wife, poor lady, died, he was so handsome and merry, they made a
handsome pair.

My mistress revived some wonderful gifts, one year she received a bag of diamonds from the king of France, I remember her tossing them to me and saying you use them I have enough of the damn things already, I’m sick of
the sight of diamonds! (I made sure to hide them away in case she changed her mind and wanted them back, the others always thought me simple, huh I showed them! How do you think I got this house and kept my family when my husband died?! You never got rich on the pay £7 a year!)

We had some good times during the early years, after as well, but things became so much quieter after the Earl of Leicester died in 1586, we still had much merry making but it was somehow a little more restrained then it
had been, the Puritans were getting a foot hold but not so much as to stop our Christmas, oh no, the Queen refused point blank to ban it, she said the “people” needed to have the 12 days as they worked so hard and so did she need the same 12 days for the same reasons, the Puritan faction were NOT best pleased with that one (when you’re a lowly lady in waiting they tend to over look you, what they didn’t realise was exactly how close I was to the Queen). The Queen was never really the same after she had to sign the Earl of Essex, she was older by then of course, I think she was feeling her mortality by then, her age if you will.

During my 50 years service to Queen Elizabeth I’d seen so much, I’d been with her at Woodstock, The Tower and at Hatfield, apart from the bag of diamonds thrown at me at her first Christmas as queen I was lucky enough
to be remembered in her will when she passed away two years ago, I was left £1,000 for all my years of loyal service and I was left a ruby ring along with a pair of tear drop ear rings, I am grateful for what was left me, I loved her you see, unlike the women in service to her in later years I was the only one left after Mistress Parry died, who knew her as a young woman and child, we used to sit for hours remembering our youth in her inner private chamber, from 1580 I was her senior chamber woman responsible for her clothes, under linen, stockings, jewels etc, her books and music too, she taught me to read and write, can you believe it? The Queen of England taught ME to read and write?!

She also gave me gifts when each of my three sons were born and found them jobs as well, my eldest is a gamekeeper at Richmond, my second son is a stonemason, a head stonemason, for all the Royal palaces, my
youngest son was set up as a book seller in Paternoster Row, I live not far from him and it’s his children that ask me to tell them the tales of my youth, I’m glad they are so interested to be honest and I enjoy to talk.

My name you ask…………….my name is Elisabeth Morris (Sands as was)……….I live here alone but for three servants and the daily visits of my 5 grandchildren……….come back another day when you happen to pass by and we can have another talk about my days of service……….let me see you out, safe journey to you and thank you for making an old woman happy……….thank you, Good Evening to you good evening!